When you work in a small office, it’s tough to get everything done. And easy to get overwhelmed.
Every big nonprofit you can think of was once a small shop, with someone doing most everything themselves.
So, how did they grow from a tiny little nonprofit to a much bigger one?
It’s the same way that businesses grow and the back bone of franchises.
Think for a minute about Starbucks.
If you go to any Starbucks in the world and order a tall vanilla latte, you’re going to get the same drink no matter what city you’re in.
Know why?
Systems will save you.

The magic of fundraising systems

Systems help you grow and multiply your efforts.
When you have a system for getting something done, you don’t have to think too hard about what you’re doing.
You follow the formula and get the result you’re looking for. Just like that tall vanilla latte.
A system is simply an organized method for accomplishing a task so that you get the same result every time, no matter who is using the system.
Actually, the system can run without you, because someone else can easily follow it.
Systems can help you be more efficient, ensure quality and speed up the training process for new folks.
The biggest reason why you need systems in your fundraising office is that they help you get more done.
Face it, you’re just one person and you can’t do everything (even if you try).
Fundraising systems will streamline your work and save you time.
I see people all the time who have no systems or their systems are broken. They’re overwhelmed, they spend a lot of time ‘winging it’, they’re disorganized, and they seem to always be fighting fires.
In practical terms, when you don’t have systems, you won’t be able to keep good volunteers – they’ll get frustrated at the disorganization and go somewhere else. Your database will be crap because you’re inconsistent about entering data and there’s no protocol for keeping it clean. Donors will be frustrated at the errors in your materials or the sporadic nature of your communications.
Anything you do more than once needs a system. Theoretically, every time you use the system, you get faster or you refine it. You become more efficient.

Systems are best when:

  • They are in writing.
  • They are clearly understood by those who will be using them.
  • They are reviewed from time to time to make sure they still work.


Steps to creating a system

When you’re ready to create a new system, follow these steps:
1. Identify the end result. What is the result you want from the system every time it’s used, no matter who is using it?
2. Identify system users. Who will be using the system? What do they know now about the end result you’re trying to achieve? What training and support will they need?
3. Flowchart the system. Break the system down into small, separate steps that will be easy to understand and teach. Flowcharts give you a nice easy visual to work with, and you can do this with software (there’s a SmartArt tool in most Microsoft products) or sticky notes.
4. Create system support tools. What can you create that will help the user? Think about checklists, worksheets, forms, etc., that can make learning and using the system easier.
Here’s an example of a system flow chart for entering gifts that are received through the mail. It’s pretty simple yet effective.

I personally would create a procedure for this system with screen shots of the donor tracking software for looking up a donor, entering a new donor, and entering the gift. I’d create a list of gift codes for easy reference. And I’d create a separate system for creating a new donor record, with specifics about what information goes in what field, whether pieces of the address should be abbreviated or not, and what salutations should be set up.
Yes, it may seem like a lot of detail, but that’s what will set you up for success long-term. You have your way of doing things, and if you want others to do it your way, you have to systematize it. Then it becomes the organization’s way of doing things.

10 must-have systems for the small fundraising office

After working in fundraising for nearly 20 years, I’ve found that these are the systems you absolutely must have if you want to raise more money in the coming year.
1. Gift entry. As in the example, you need a system for getting donations entered into your software. Include how you look up the donor, enter the donation, and prepare the thank-you letter. If you’re handling checks, you might include a piece about preparing a deposit for the bank.
2. Volunteer onboarding. The more you spread the word about your nonprofit’s good work, the more people will want to help. You need a system for recruiting volunteers or responding to inquiries (be prepared for both phone and email inquiries), how you store volunteer information including their areas of interests and times of availability, and how you get them oriented and plugged in.
3. Grant research. You need a system for conducting grant research, including how often you will look for new grant opportunities, where you will look, what key words you’ll use, how you’ll organize the information you find, and how you’ll get the hot new opportunities merged into your ongoing grant activities.
4. Donor Acknowledgement. The more donations you receive, the better you need to be at thanking donors. This system should include how you select the right thank-you letter, when the letters are processed and sent out, how you thank donors at various levels, and when you involve Board members in thanking donors. You should also include something about changing your standard letter every month.
5. Social media. This system should include how you decide what to post, when to post, where to post, and who posts. Getting clear about this system will save you a ton of time and keep you from staring at Facebook wondering what you should be sharing. It will also keep your audience interested and more engaged.
6. Board recruitment. In order to create a red-hot, super-effective Board, you need a system for recruiting the right people. This system should include how you decide what skills you need, where you find new Board member prospects, how you start the conversation, a process for interviewing prospects, who interviews them, and how you make the final decision about who to invite to join your Board. No single Board member should be inviting new people onto the Board. Recruitment should be done by a committee of 2 or 3 Board members. When you’re very purposeful about recruitment, you will get great new folks on your Board.
7. Welcome New Donors. The time between a new donor’s first gift and their second gift is a critical time. What happens during the first couple of weeks will determine whether they’ll give again (or not). Create a system for welcoming new donors that makes them feel really good about their decision to give to your nonprofit. This system should include what welcome activities will happen, when they’ll happen, and who will do them. You can include a new donor welcome kit, thank you phone call, welcome video, etc. Just focus on making them feel like they’re making a difference and part of something worthwhile.
8. Creating a newsletter. Your newsletter can be your best tool for building relationships with donors and prospects, but if it’s done haphazardly, it won’t accomplish much of anything (and unfortunately, most nonprofit newsletters are crap). Create a system for the timing of your newsletter (when it goes out and how often it goes out), its format, its content, and who it goes to. When you have a schedule and an editorial calendar for your newsletter, writing it becomes much, much easier, and your recipients will actually read it!
9. Nurturing donors. How will you take care of your donors so they feel appreciated, engaged and part of your team? You need a system for nurturing them. Actually, I encourage you to create two donor nurture systems: one for your top donors and another for everyone else. Include the warm touches you’ll use 1-to-1 with your best donors like personal notes, visits, personal tours, etc. And for the rest of your donors, consider video, open houses, holiday cards with no ask, etc. Create a calendar for when these will go out, how they’ll get created, who will create them, and who will send them.
10. Following up on pledges. One of the biggest mistakes a nonprofit can make is letting donors make a pledge then not supporting the donor to make the pledge payment. I’ve had the experience of making a pledge and being told I’d receive a quarterly statement to remind me to send in my donation, then never hearing another thing from the organization. Create a system for managing pledge info (where it’s stored), determining who needs to be followed up with, how you’ll do the follow up, what will be sent, and what to do if they don’t pay. This system will keep you from losing money that you worked hard to get.
Warning: don’t try to create all these systems at once. Start with the one that will give you the most leverage, create it and put it in place. Once it seems to be working well, go on to the next one. If you tackle one system a month and you get it solidly in place, you will see tremendous improvement over the next 12 months.
Once you have systems created and begin using them, review them from time to time to make sure they still work. Ask those who use the system for feedback. Check the system output to make sure you’re still getting the results you’re looking for. Update your procedures. And make sure everyone is still on the same page about what the system should be doing.

If you’re looking for a quick, easy, affordable, and dynamic way to thank donors this holiday season, then check this out:
Make and send a thank-you video.
It’s super easy to shoot. Just use your smart phone. No fancy equipment or skill needed (isn’t THAT a relief!).
With YouTube being one of the biggest social media platforms out there, people are used to seeing videos that aren’t professionally done. No need to hire a film crew and spend thousands when you already have everything you need!
Just share your message from the heart and you’ll wins tons of brownie points with your donors.
How it works
First, choose the donors you want to thank. Start with your top ones or ones who have been particularly helpful lately. You might start with your Board to practice.
Decide what you want to say. You might want to create an outline of the points you want to make. I wouldn’t create a word-for-word script because it puts too much pressure on you to be perfect. This needs to be real and in-the-moment. You may need to practice a couple of times until you get comfortable shooting video and getting the words out that you want to say.
Make it personalized. Start the video by mentioning the donor by name. Yes, this means you’ll need to make each donor their own video. And I promise it will be worth the few minutes you’ll spend doing it. Bonus points if you mention something in the video that is specific to the donor (a family member, a recent trip they took, or something else that lets the donor know you’re paying attention to them).
Keep it short. Don’t ramble. Shoot for about a minute, maybe a minute and a half. People just won’t watch long videos (they’re too busy).
Done is better than perfect. Don’t let your perfectionism drama get in the way here. A good video with a flub in it that warms a donor’s heart is better than a video that never gets finished because the shooter can’t ‘get it right.’ Your thank-you video doesn’t have to be perfect – it just has to be sincere.
Once you have the video done, upload it to YouTube and make it “unlisted.” That means only someone with the link can see it. Then email the donor the link and watch what happens.
Sample time!
I have lots of clients doing these videos this holiday season and their donors are LOVING them!
Here’s one I got from the Watauga Humane Society recently: https://youtu.be/8IODutA4PyU
Here’s a playlist of videos we’ve collected: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjcLg4PsUjw&list=PLMm6pto8W-m2IfmzFydP2ygeLfaOiM5nl
And here’s a list from Network for Good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8cFXc713bw&list=PL30C895F6055CDEEA

Thanks to Abby Jarvis with Qgiv for today’s article.
When it comes to online fundraising, how does your nonprofit stack up?

Do you have a prominent “Donate Now” button on your website? A stellar donation page? Are you receiving online donations at a steady rate?

Check, check, and check, you might be saying to yourself. (If not, you can make a note to amend these online fundraising mistakes)1.

Well, what happens after your donors have pressed the “Make a Donation” button on your form? Even the most tech-savvy nonprofits may struggle with the next steps, vital as they are.

Once a donor gives online, you need to start the stewardship process. Your online donors, after all, are just as valuable to your cause as your other supporters.

Donor stewardship is about more than retaining donors. It’s about building stronger, lasting relationships so that donors engage with your nonprofit at increasingly advanced levels. They may donate larger amounts, give more frequently, or offer more involved support for your mission.

Either way, stewardship is vital to growing a healthy online donor base.

Let’s take a look at our 6 steps to stewarding online donors effectively:

  1. Use online giving software.
  2. Offer multiple giving options.
  3. Customize donation receipts.
  4. Amp up your confirmation page.
  5. Give a sincere thank you.
  6. Send relevant, engaging emails.

Let’s get started with the first step.

1. Use online giving software.

qgiv-getfullyfunded-onlinestewardship-step-1Using online giving software is the foundation of not just your stewardship, but all of your online fundraising efforts2.

However, it’s especially important that you choose a platform that can integrate with your stewardship plan.

What features should you look for when choosing (or swapping!) your online giving software?

Here are some important considerations:


  • CRM Integration. When new donors give online, or if current donors input new information into your online donation form, you’ll need a way to access it so that you can flesh out your donor profiles and connect more naturally with your donors. Strong online software should offer CRM integration so that this information is catalogued in an accessible format.
  • Account creation. The ability for donors to create accounts when they donate is a great way to keep them invested in your organization. With this feature, donors are able to manage their donations and payment methods, which gives them more control over their giving experience. It’s important that you never require donors to create an account, though — simply give them the option!
  • Recurring giving. Convenience is key to meeting donors in their busy lives. You can better steward your donors if you make giving easy because they’ll be more inclined to donate again if they know the process is simple. Including an option to set up automatic recurring gifts is a great way to retain donors without requiring them to go through a lengthy process or schedule a donation on their calendar every month or so.


These are only a few of the features that are important when considering your online giving software.

Ultimately, you want to choose a software that makes the giving process as simple and rewarding as possible for your donors3.

At the same time, your platform should help your organization create a more informed stewardship strategy by providing insight into your donors’ giving patterns and information.

2. Offer multiple giving options.

qgiv-getfullyfunded-onlinestewardship-step-2There are many reasons to offer multiple giving options on your online donation form. One reason is that it can encourage donors to give more than they normally would.

In terms of stewardship, giving options allow you to meet your donors’ expectations with their gifts.

To do so, you can define how each gift amount will be used for your cause. Be as specific as possible.

Let’s take a look at an example. Say your organization is a big cat rescue. On your donation page, you can specify what each gift can accomplish, as follows:

$50 will purchase a new scratching post to keep our tigers happy and healthy.

$100 will feed our lions for a month.

$500 will aid in our rescue efforts for big cats in poor conditions.

When you set your donors’ expectations, you have a greater chance of satisfying them.

After all, stewardship is about managing your donors’ gifts and expectations with care4.

Outright stating what certain gift amounts will accomplish takes the guesswork away from both you and the donor, so that you can focus on building a stronger relationship.

3. Customize donation receipts.

qgiv-getfullyfunded-onlinestewardship-step-3Your online giving software likely offers an automatic donation receipt feature.

Sending quick, immediate donation receipts is important for online donors, because receipts confirm that your nonprofit has successfully processed the donation.

However, personalization should not be sacrificed for speed. You can use donation receipts to steward donors by customizing them.

A custom donation receipt shows that your nonprofit has put forth a deliberate effort to acknowledge the donor’s gift.

To create the most effective receipt strategy, you’ll want to:


  • Thank donors. Though a donation receipt isn’t necessarily your formal thank you letter, you should still use this opportunity to offer your gratitude to donors. Include a “thank you” in your receipt email subject line and at the top of the email.
  • Personalize receipts. Always include the donor’s preferred name and title on the receipt. Avoid overly formal language or legalese. You can include the important legal information near the bottom of the receipt, but to start out, greet your donors with sincerity (ex: Thank you, Sharon, for furthering our cause to save big cats!).
  • Be specific. Acknowledge the specific donation amount, as well as the campaign that a donor gave to. (ex: Your $100 donation will provide tigers like Stripes with food for an entire month).
  • Include relevant photos. If possible, include photos of the recipients of your aid in your donation receipt. That way, donors will feel more connected to your cause.


Following a custom receipt strategy will show your donors that they’re important to your organization and that your nonprofit cares about them as individuals, not just as donations5.

4. Amp up your confirmation page.

qgiv-getfullyfunded-onlinestewardship-step-4What’s the first thing donors see after they press the donation button? Your confirmation page.

Now is the chance to make your first stewardship impression.

One of the best ways to steward donors is to offer more opportunities for engagement. You don’t want to initiate another ask; after all, you want your donors to feel appreciated!

So what kind of content can you include on your confirmation page?

You can include:


  • Social media integration. We live in a digital age. Once a donor gives, they may want to share their donation with their social networks. Including Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ sharing buttons can allow donors to do just that, quickly and easily! If donors integrate their donation with their social presence, then they may be more inclined to continue supporting your nonprofit. Plus, you can acquire new donors in the process!
  • Shareable content. Publicly sharing a donation isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. You can still merge giving with your donors’ social networks by prompting donors to share valuable content. A video that shows the recipients of your nonprofit’s aid being helped is a great example. When donors share this video with their networks, they’re making a public statement of their support, which can encourage their friends to get involved, too.
  • Upcoming events or volunteer opportunities. Stewarding donors means keeping them involved. Links to upcoming fundraising events or volunteer opportunities can show donors that you want them along for the ride.


The goal is to use your confirmation page to keep donors invested and interested in your nonprofit after they’ve already given.

5. Give a sincere thank you.

qgiv-getfullyfunded-onlinestewardship-step-5It’s vital that your online donors don’t slip through the cracks. You’ll need to send them a sincere thank you, likely through an online channel such as email.

The thank you should be prompt, but it doesn’t have to be immediate.

Taking extra time to learn about your online donors can help you personalize your thank yous to the donors’ preferences and potential.

After all, online donation forms have the capacity to reach a wide variety of donors. You may acquire new donors through crowdfunding or peer-to-peer campaigns, for example.

A new donor may give a moderate, but substantial, gift online while holding major donor potential6. In this case, a donor may require a personal phone call, rather than an email, to learn more about their gift.

You won’t know unless you take the time to research these donors or flesh out your current donor profiles7.

That way, when you send your thank you, you’ll have a better grasp on who your donors are as contributors and what paths they can take with your organization.

In short, a sincere thank you is based upon actually knowing who the donor is. The more you know your donors, the better you can thank them appropriately.

Remember that all donors deserve thanks. Small or mid-sized donors may not receive a personal phone call, but you can still make your thank you meaningful by:


  • Updating the donor. Update the donor on the progress of your campaign so that they can see how their gift is being used for good.
  • Letting the recipients of your aid speak. Ask the recipients of your aid how they are being helped. Allow them to express their personal gratitude or tell their stories. Or, in the case of our big cats example, you can include a cute photo with a “thank you” written as the caption. The point is to put the spotlight on the people or animals that your donors care about.
  • Use donor-centric language. Do not talk about your nonprofit. Or at least, keep your language focused on what “you,” the donor, has done. Not on what “we,” the nonprofit, have accomplished.


While these strategies can be applied to all donors, you can send more prominent gestures of gratitude to high-level donors, who likely expect more than an email for their gifts.

To steward these donors properly, you can meet in person to learn more about their gift. Or, you can try sending a personalized video to demonstrate your thanks8.

6. Send relevant, engaging emails.

qgiv-getfullyfunded-onlinestewardship-step-6To properly steward online donors, you’ll need to send them relevant updates about your nonprofit.

Online donors have demonstrated that they enjoy giving through an online channel; it’s likely that they’ll also enjoy receiving information in the same way.

Staying in touch with your donors is important for keeping them invested in your organization. Of course, you’ll want to send more than the occasional ask.

You can use your CRM to segment your email list9 so that donors are receiving the information that’s most relevant to them. You wouldn’t, for instance, want to email a long-time donor (who just gave their first online contribution) a newsletter that welcomes them to the organization.

Specific, informative, and engaging content is the best way to spice up your emails.

But you can also use this channel to further your stewardship efforts beyond the online giving world.

You can, for instance, send personal email invites to events.

Fundraising events are great fun for everyone10. But you can also host non-ask events specifically designed to steward donors.

If your know your donors are receptive to online communication channels, email may be the perfect way to meet these donors face-to-face!

Stewarding your online donors can keep them happy and invested in your organization11.

These strategies can help ensure that you’re treating all of your donors as the valuable individuals that they are!


  1. http://getfullyfunded.com/13-signs-online-fundraising-2/
  2. https://www.qgiv.com/
  3. http://getfullyfunded.com/10-things-your-online-donors-want/
  4. https://www.qgiv.com/blog/donor-stewardship-cultivation-guide/
  5. http://getfullyfunded.com/15-tips-to-build-donor-relationships-through-stellar-stewardship/
  6. http://articles.salsalabs.com/major-gifts-guide/
  7. https://doublethedonation.com/nonprofit-software-and-resources/prospect-research-tools/
  8. http://getfullyfunded.com/the-hottest-way-to-thank-donors-ever-2/
  9. http://blog.fundly.com/nonprofit-crm-complete-guide/
  10. https://www.neoncrm.com/planning-fundraising-events/
  11. http://getfullyfunded.com/4-keys-keeping-happy-donors-repeat-gifts/




Abby Jarvis is a blogger, marketer, and communications coordinator for Qgiv, an online fundraising service provider. Qgiv offers industry-leading online giving and peer to peer fundraising tools for nonprofit, faith-based, and political organizations of all sizes. When she’s not working at Qgiv, Abby can usually be found writing for local magazines, catching up on her favorite blogs, or binge-watching sci-fi shows on Netflix.

Fundraising is a busy business.
There’s always more to do than you can get done.
Can I get an ‘amen’?
If you’re like me, I sometimes feel like I’m on a raft moving swiftly down a raging river and I just dropped my paddle.
Life moves fast! Sometimes it’s hard to keep up.
One thing I love about the holidays is the chance to hit the “pause” button on our busy lives.
It’s like a free pass to relax and reflect. Maybe even count your blessings.
Staying in gratitude will help you notice and appreciate what’s going on around you, which will put you in a more relaxed head space.
Try this exercise: Grab a pen and paper and jot down the answers to these questions. Practice being grateful for each one. Then see if you feel different afterward (I bet you will!).

1. Your favorite food. Think about how it smells when it’s cooking. Does it remind you of a special time?
2. Your favorite season of the year. What do you love most about that season?
3. Your favorite holiday. What’s your favorite memory of that holiday?
4. Your favorite sound. What does it remind you of?
5. Your favorite hobby or relaxing activity. How do you feel when you’re engaged in it?
6. Your favorite work activity. How does it make you feel when you’re doing it?
7. What technology are you grateful for? How does it make your life or your work easier?
8. What abilities are you grateful for? How are you using them to help others?
9. What knowledge are you grateful for? How often do you use it? Where did you learn it?
10. What people in your life are you grateful for? How do they impact your world?
11. What tradition in your life are you grateful for?
12. What small thing that you use daily are you grateful for? How does it help you?

Here are my answers:
1. My favorite food is cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory. No big surprise to friends and family! I also love pizza from my local pizza joint and homemade chili.
2. My favorite season is summer. I love the long days, the sunshine, and the warm temperatures. I love cutting grass (I know, I’m weird!) and being outside.
3. My favorite holiday has to be Christmas. I love the excitement of it. I love decorating. I love how my little town is all decorated with giant snowflakes hung from the utility poles and a giant tree in front of the courthouse. I love adopting kids from the Angel Tree and I love shopping for treats for others.
4. My favorite sound is when my horses nicker. I love when they “talk” to me. Of course, they’re usually telling me to hurry up with their dinner!
5. My favorite hobby is quilting. I have a whole bedroom in my house taken up with sewing machines, tons of fabric, and dozens of projects that are in various stages of progress. I love the creative process of choosing a pattern and fabric, then watching it come together.
6. My favorite work activity when I was a Development Director was opening the mail. I loved seeing the checks and entering them into the computer. And this time of year, it was exciting!! I remember one time finding a check for $10,000 from a new donor! Woohoo!! I called them immediately to thank them and found out it was part of an inheritance along with the reasons why they believed in our work.
7. I’m grateful for scanners. I think it’s awesome that we can scan something and email it instead of mailing or faxing. Although I remember when we thought faxing was amazing! (Ok, I just admitted I’m old!)
8. I’m so grateful for my ability to listen and be fully present with someone. People trust me and tell me a lot of very personal things, and I don’t treat that lightly. I’m so grateful to be the one they feel comfortable telling their innermost thoughts. I’m quite honored, actually.
9. I’m most grateful for my knowledge of fundraising, and that I’ve found a way to help others with it. It’s surreal some days when I look around and see the business I’ve built helping folks raise money for good causes. I’m humbled and happy to work in this field every day.
10. I’m grateful for friends and family who enrich my life and tolerate my craziness. I’m grateful for my clients (the best clients in the world!) who trust me to support them. I’m grateful for my team and the way we do a lot of good in the world.
11. The tradition I’m grateful for is baking cookies during the holidays. Almost every year since my kids were little, we make chocolate chip cookies and sugar cookies with icing. Some years my Mom does it and some years I do, but there are always cookies!
12. The small thing I use daily that I’m grateful for is my hair dryer. I don’t like having wet hair. I’m grateful that I can plug it in, dry my hair and be on my way.

Here are some other things I’m grateful for:

  1. The smell of rain on a hot summer day.
  2. My favorite song on the radio.
  3. Clean sheets on my bed.
  4. The smell of cut grass.
  5. Finding money I had forgotten about in a jacket pocket.
  6. The way my dogs always greet me with a smile.
  7. A cat in my lap on a cold day.
  8. The smell of the ocean.
  9. My favorite pillow.
  10. A glass of red wine.
  11. Long weekends.
  12. Looking at old photos.
  13. Pizza and a movie at home.
  14. A good belly laugh.
  15. Eating blueberries right off the bush.
  16. Going to the store to buy something then finding it on sale.
  17. A hot shower.
  18. Making something myself.
  19. Planting flowers.


How about you? What are you grateful for?

Donor's AttentionWhen was the last time you were confused?

Yeah, I know. For some of us, it’s a daily occurrence.

And it’s not fun.

I don’t know anyone who LIKES being bewildered.

I want you to really get this:

Imagine you’re listening to someone who is trying to explain something. You’re just not following it and no matter how many times they try, you just don’t get it.

Reminds me of my physics classes in college. No matter how many questions I asked or how many times they tried to explain, I just couldn’t understand.

Wound up changing my major so I could get out of physics class. True story.

Is the reason you don’t understand because you’re not a good listener? Or is it because they’re a bad communicator?

Either way, it’s a problem, because unless the speaker finds a different way to convey their message, it’s lost.

Now, think about this – how many times have your donors been in that spot of being confused and not quite comprehending what you’re saying?
You’re trying your best to help them understand your programs and your mission, and they’re just not following you.

It gets worse. When they don’t understand, they don’t give.

So, here’s the real question:

Whose responsibility is it to clarify and simplify the message?

Yep. It’s yours.

Good messaging vs bad messaging


Donor's AttentionMessaging is key to fundraising.

When people understand what you’re saying, they feel something, then decide whether to act. If they don’t understand, they won’t give, simple as that.
Good messaging:

  • Resonates. It “lands” in the heart and mind of the listener/reader and makes sense. When your message resonates, you’ll usually see people nodding their head in agreement with you.
  • Motivates. It moves them to want to give. They understand the significance of the work your organization does and they want to support it.
  • Harmonizes. The right message gets people singing from the same sheet of music, so that everyone is in tune. You, your donors, and your volunteers all work together in harmony to deliver your nonprofit’s services to those who need it.

On the other hand, bad messaging bores people. It’s what causes them to stop reading your newsletter or appeal. It’s what starts their exit from your donor family.

Most bad messaging is very ego centric. Look at how much more interesting it is when it’s donor-centric:


Ego-Centric Donor-Centric
For the last 20 years, we’ve been saving dogs and cats in our community. For the past 20 years, we’ve partnered with folks just like you to make sure that animals in our community get the care they need to live happy, healthy lives.
Through our 6 programs, we provide service to over 500 dogs and cats each month. Because of your support, we’re able to provide loving care to over 500 dogs and cats each month.
Our service area includes 10 counties in our region. We’re helping animals in 10 counties find loving homes.
We’re the only certified _____ rescue in our area. Our biggest accomplishment is helping dogs like Rex find a loving, forever home.
We’re a 501c3 nonprofit organization. Your gift is tax deductible. Check with your accountant for more details.

The donor-centric messaging is juicier. It’s more interesting and compelling.

The ego-centric messaging is boring. It’s very inwardly focused and makes people outside the organization feel like outsiders.

Bad news folks – all of us have shared the ego-centric crap at one point or another!

And here’s the good news – you can change it, starting TODAY!

Why vs What

Donor's AttentionHere’s another way to think about this: spend more time talking about the Why versus the What.


If I were to ask you WHY your nonprofit does what it does, what would you say?

“To change lives”

“To save lives”

“To give people a chance to change”

“To give kids a brighter future.”

“To cure disease.”

“To end hunger.”

“To eliminate euthanasia of animals in our community.”

“To make the world a better place.”

Yours is either one of those or similar.

The WHY is the good stuff. It’s what we care about and what we can sink our teeth into. It’s what motivates us to give.

Unfortunately, most folks spend their time talking about WHAT they do and HOW it gets done.

Anytime you start spouting details about programs, you’re talking about the WHAT.

More bad news – people don’t care about the WHAT. They don’t really care about HOW you get things done either.

When you talk about WHY your organization does what it does, it moves people closer to giving. When you talk about WHAT, you’re boring people and pushing them away.

Here’s a good example of WHY messaging from our client BESTWA. It’s from an email appeal raising money to pay customs fees for a shipment of medicine. Notice that they talk about WHY the medicine is important, exactly how much they need, and exactly how you can help.

No surprise that they raised the money in just a few days.

Now, here’s part of a letter I received a couple of years ago. See if this moves you to give:


Ok, yeah, there’s another page with more info… but it’s a full page of “Ministry Impact Initiatives” [whatever those are!] that I have no desire to read. I read the first one and it’s jargon, acronyms, and insider language I don’t understand.

The bottom line

As I said to a client this morning, your messaging should work for the person with the least amount of knowledge of your organization. If they barely know anything, will they be able to read and understand what you’re saying?

Will they get it? Or will you lose them.

Trust me on this one – you can’t afford to lose them.

Make your messaging

  • Simple
  • Easy to understand
  • Concise
  • Jargon free

You’ll get more donations and your donors will appreciate you more.

Fall Fundraising AppealHappy Fall, Y’all!
The leaves are starting to turn, the nights are cooler, and everything has pumpkin spice in it!
Fall also signals the start of Fundraising Season.
Fundraising Season runs between now and the end of the year. It’s the time when people think about helping others and what charitable gifts they want to make before the year is done.
One of the best ways to ask for (and get!) donations this time of year is with a fundraising appeal sent through regular postal mail (sometimes called direct mail).
If you’re not asking for a gift between now and the end of the year, you’re conspicuously absent. And you’ll get left out.
You see, no one ever wakes up in the morning and says “I feel like giving some money away. Where’s the phone book? I’m gonna find me a nonprofit!”
If your Fall fundraising appeal is all planned out, well done. If it’s already in process or in the mail, excellent work!
If you haven’t even started thinking about it yet, don’t panic. You still have time, but you need to get on it now.


Before you start


Before you open up a clean Word file and start writing the letter, get your ducks in a row. It’ll help you minimize your costs and maximize your return.


1. Clean up your mailing list. Don’t send your appeal to people who don’t want to hear from you anymore. A clean list, with the most current email and mailing addresses, will save you money and help you be more accurate in donor communications.
2. Plan it out. What story will you tell in the letter? What will you ask people to give? What difference will that money make? When will the letter need to go in the mail? Planning out your appeal can help you get it done in a short period of time.
3. Set goals for your appeal. Don’t just mail out a letter and hope to raise money. Be clear about the specific results you want from your appeal. There’s actually a LOT of math you can do to calculate the results you might get (I usually crunch these numbers for my clients). At a minimum, consider these goals:
  • The largest number of gifts possible (exactly how many would that be for your nonprofit?).
  • The highest possible gift from each donor (what is your typical average gift size?).
  • The smallest cost possible for the mailing (will you print, fold, & stuff in house or outsource it?).
  • The best return on investment (ROI) for the dollars you spend.


Writing the letter


Fall Fundraising AppealMost fundraising appeals are crap. They’re written by committee (deathly mistake!) or written by someone who doesn’t understand the psychology behind a successful appeal. They think they can just throw some words on a page and then sit back and collect the money.
Bad news – it doesn’t work that way.
A terrible appeal talks about how great the organization is, how long they’ve been around, and how amazing their work is.
A great appeal tugs the donor’s heartstrings and moves them to reach for their wallet.
See the difference? It’s about who the letter is focused on. More on that in a minute.
Here are some tips to help you write the best possible letter.

1. Be donor-focused. Don’t write an appeal that’s all about you. Don’t talk about how great the year was or how challenging it’s been – no one wants to hear that. Instead, tell a story about someone whose life has been changed by the work your nonprofit does. It’s way more interesting and engaging. Being self-centered is the biggest mistake you can make with your appeal.


2. Write to one person. As you write your appeal, don’t think about the hundreds of people who will receive it. Instead, picture one donor in your mind, and write to that one person. Your letter will be way more conversational and interesting.


3. Start with a short, hooky first sentence and tell a story. Short and hooky will grab the reader’s attention. If you start by talking about your organization or your programs, you’ll lose the reader. The first sentence should grab them and pull them in. The next sentence keeps them reading, and so on.


4. Only include the essentials. It’s tempting to tell EVERYTHING about your organization. After all, you want your donor to understand how it all works, right? Don’t. It’s overwhelming. Only share what the reader needs to know to make the decision to give. Anything else just gets in the way.
5. Have an 8-year old approve it. Seriously. Hand your letter to a kid and see if they understand it. If they get stuck on complex sentence structure or jargon, go back and try it again. Your letter should be super simple to read and understand. 

Sandy’s Appeal Template


I write a LOT of letters for clients. Once I get the story and the angle in my head, I can usually whip a letter out in about 30 minutes and my clients love the results they get! In a recent Mastermind training, I rewrote an appeal for a homeless ministry, and they raised over $20,000 with it!

Here’s the template I follow when I write a letter:


  1. Grab the reader’s attention with a short, compelling first line that begins to tell a story.
  2. Continue by telling a story that demonstrates the need met by your organization. Keep the paragraphs short – maybe a sentence or two. It makes the letter easier to read.
  3. Pivot, and talk about the gap between the number of lives currently being changed and the number still waiting.
  4. Transition into why you need your reader’s help and the urgency of the need.
  5. Make the Ask. Ask for a specific amount of money and talk about what that money will do.
  6. End the letter with a clear call to action (“Use the enclosed envelope to send your best gift today”).
  7. Use the signature of the top-ranking staff person.
  8. In a short P.S., repeat the Ask.

This template works. Every. Time.

Add some sizzle


Want to make your letter irresistible? Try one of these:

  • Add photos of the person/animal in the story.
  • Add a link to a video online where the donor can see and hear more about the person/animal from the story.
  • Follow up the print letter with a shorter email version to remind the donor to give.
  • Support the story in the letter with social media posts, especially if you can link to the video.
  • Have your Board members add hand-written notes on the letters to people they personally know.


Need more help with your Fall appeal? The Get Fully Funded system has a whole section on creating a winning appeal, and includes a Direct Mail Plan Worksheet, sample themes, Sample Production Schedules, Cost and Revenue Estimation Formulas, tips for keeping your data clean, and an Appeal Proofing Checklist. Get your system at http://getfullyfunded.com/get-fully-funded-system/.

Thanks to Zach Hagopian with Accelevents for today’s article.

Those who have organized a successful fundraiser know the importance of having great sponsors. Whether your event is large or small, sponsors bring a level of legitimacy to your cause, while also significantly contributing to your proceeds. This combination of increased revenue and added exposure is the key to scaling the size of your fundraiser, year after year. Additionally, a healthy collection of sponsors tells your donors that your fundraising event is worth attending!


Fake Dictionary, definition of the word sponsor.

At this point, you’re probably thinking that bringing in sponsors to your next fundraiser is a no-brainer – and it is! However, the path to attracting and closing many sponsorships can be long and difficult. For that reason, we have created the Ultimate Guide to Fundraising Sponsorship. In this guide, we will walk you through all aspects of sponsorship, focusing on the key areas below:


  1. Opportunity Identification
  2. Building a Sponsorship Package
  3. Soliciting Sponsors
  4. Acknowledgment and Follow Up


As fundraiser organizers ourselves, we believe this guide will be one of your best tools in attracting new sponsors, growing your event year over year, and increasing donations for your cause!


Opportunity Identification


The very first step that you (and your committee) should take is identifying the opportunity for sponsorship at your next fundraising event. While sponsorship can apply to fundraising events of all sizes, the nature of sponsorship can vary greatly. To begin this process, consider some of the following criteria:


  1. Size – How large is your event? Do you have an expected attendance? Estimating the size of your audience will help you gauge the size of sponsors to pursue. If you plan on having a very large event with 400+ attendees, you will have a great chance of attracting large sponsors on a national level. Smaller events may have more luck focusing on smaller sponsors coming from local businesses in the city or surrounding towns where the event will take place.


  1. Audience – Knowing your attending audience will be key to understanding your sponsorship approach. By identifying certain elements of your audience (age, employment, geographic location), you can tailor your sponsorship targeting in order to start with the most relevant sponsors.


Our annual event consists of over 1,000 young professionals and millennials. Knowing this about our audience allows our committee to target sponsors interested in gaining exposure to such an audience. For us, this may include younger startups, or corporations that are keen on growing their consumer base from a younger demographic.


  1. Event Location & Online Presence – Your event location will include both your physical venue and any potential digital or online plans you may have. Knowing your venue ahead of time will allow you to create a more informed sponsorship package, detailing specific exposure opportunities for your sponsors. These typically include logo placements, banners, and mentions at the event.


While these physical elements will be key to attracting sponsors, knowing your online or digital presence will also be a major draw for sponsors. Do you plan on having an event website, Eventbrite page, and social media pages dedicated to your fundraiser? If so, your event will become a much more attractive candidate for sponsorship, as potential sponsors will see the clear value in generating online impressions.


Pro Tip: When creating online “real-estate” for your fundraiser, try to plan ahead and create immersive or engaging elements for your fundraiser. Using your online pages to create teasers for your audience, or even allowing them to donate through a mobile or online fundraiser will create a fun experience for your audience. Your potential sponsors will be drawn to this engaging experience, and will be eager to support your cause in order to be associated with this positive experience!


Once your team has considered the criteria above, you should have a better understanding of the opportunity for sponsorship at your event – both in the total scope of sponsorship dollars you can bring in, and the type of sponsors you can begin to prospect.


Using your knowledge of the above, you can then set a goal for the amount of sponsorship your team should try to secure. Set a firm goal, and communicate it early and often to your committee. Keep in mind that newer events may attract less sponsorship than a mature event with a proven track record.



 Building Your Sponsorship Package


Now that you have gauged the sponsorship potential for your fundraising event, it’s time to create your fundraiser sponsorship package. The fundraiser sponsorship package is an amazing tool and resource for your committee to use as they prospect and hopefully close many sponsorships for your fundraiser.


When creating your sponsorship package, it’s important to remember that the major function of the document will be to clearly communicate the inspiration, message, and history behind your event, while also providing information on the different sponsorship tiers available to potential supporters.


And while information below will be a great guide for you to follow when creating your own sponsorship package, feel free to get creative and add any feedback you have in the comments section of this post!

  1. Event DescriptionFirst and foremost, take a small portion of your sponsorship package to describe your upcoming fundraiser. Key information to include will be:


  • The event name
  • Date and time
  • The cause or organization that the fundraiser will be supporting
  • Venue name and location
  • The event theme and dress code


  1. Inspiration / HistoryOne of the most important sections of your sponsorship package will be where you describe the inspiration and history behind your event. Providing a glimpse into the origin of your event and the story around the great cause / organization you are supporting will help your event stand out among the hundreds of sponsorship requests potential supporters receive. If you have been running your event for more than a year, be sure to include information on the progress or growth the event has made over that time. This could be growth in attendance, proceeds raised, or both!


After describing your team’s motivation and the history behind your fundraising event, you can also use a small portion of your sponsorship package to talk about the organization or cause you are supporting. Here, include the mission statement of the organization and any important progress or history it has made since its origin.


  1. Event StatisticsNow it’s time to focus on some of the hard data. Do you expect high attendance? Maybe your audience isn’t huge, but consists mostly of a target demographic that you know your sponsors are dying to get in front of. For our annual Boston fundraiser, we focus heavily on our large attendance, consisting mostly of millennials and young professionals.


Some other sources of data that you may be able to pull from include:


  • Digital Presence – This will include anything from the traffic / impressions you may be observing on your fundraising event web page, to the number of fans or people in attendance on your Facebook event page. One tip here – make sure you set up a Google Analytics account for your site. This is easy to do, and will allow you to capture impressions and stats to share with your sponsors each year.


  • Survey Data – If you plan on holding your fundraising event annually, send out a post-event survey. In the survey, you can gain insights on what your audience thought of your event, but can also ask questions about your attendees’ ages, occupations, and preferences. Once you’ve collected this data, you can include some of the stats directly in your sponsorship package in order to entice your sponsors.


  • Yearly Proceeds – Again, it will always help to highlight any growth you’ve seen in your proceeds donated, year after year.


  1. The AskNow that you’ve provided your potential sponsors with some amazing context behind your event, and stats that will have them chomping at the bit, it’s time to ask for their participation and help!


A strong call to action will provide potential sponsors with the next steps they must take in order to participate as a sponsor. In addition, it is always helpful if you can provide information on what a potential contribution would mean for the organization or cause that your event is supporting. For example, will a contribution of $1,000 provide meals to impoverished children for a week?  Let your sponsors know these details, so that they can visualize the impact their organization will have.

  1. Sponsorship TiersThe most critical portion of your sponsorship package will be the sponsorship levels that you determine for your potential sponsors. These tiers describe the different aspects of each sponsorship (level of exposure, presence at the event, tickets, etc.) and correspond to increasing levels of contribution.


Based on the size of your event, you can determine the different monetary levels that you’d like to assign to each tier of sponsorship. We provide an example of a great sponsorship package used for a real fundraising event at the end of this post!


Typically, levels are broken into categories to make your ask clearer. We use categories such as Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze, but feel free to create your own custom names that play into your event.

Common aspects that are included in most sponsorship packages include:


  • Naming Rights – Naming rights are one of the most prominent attributes a fundraising event can offer to sponsors, and typically include a sponsor providing a monetary contribution in order to have their name tied to a certain portion of the fundraising event. For example, a sponsor company may donate $25,000 in order to have the event itself named after the company – i.e., The [Company Name here] Winter Fundraiser.


For smaller contributions, you may be inclined to offer naming rights for different portions of your event (the DJ booth, the open bar, etc.).


  • Logo & Name Recognition – This can include a sponsor’s logo on all digital elements of your fundraiser, including email or online communications, social media pages, and your website.


Additionally, logo recognition will include any physical signage present at your event, such as on event banners, programs, or even your photo backdrops.


  • Tickets to the Event – Traditionally, most of your sponsorship tiers will include tickets to your event for the sponsoring organization. The higher the contribution, the more tickets you can offer to the sponsor!
  1. Contact InfoFinally, don’t forget to include your contact information and the address to which your sponsors can send their contributions, as well as any materials you will need from them (logo files, etc.).Keep in mind that your sponsorship package is a great way to start conversations with your sponsors. Emphasize that your different tiers are just guidelines – leave sponsorship opportunities open to discussion, in case your potential sponsors are interested in a custom experience outside of the original details provided in your sponsorship package.


Soliciting Sponsors


At this point, hopefully you’ve worked with your committee to identify the sponsorship opportunity your fundraising event will have, and you’ve also finished creating a compelling sponsorship package.


Now it’s time to start contacting and closing sponsorship deals for your fundraiser!


Because this is arguably the most important part of fundraiser sponsorship, we’ve broken this section down into a few subsections:


  1. Best Channels of Communication
  2. Creating a Prospecting & Outreach Plan
  3. Process & Example Outreach Messages
  4. General Tips and Tricks


Coming from years of experience in running special events and fundraisers, the strategies below have been working great for us – but feel free to add in your own strategies, too!


  1. Best Channels of Communication


Phone and Email – The largest portion of your sponsorship communication and outreach will consist of sending emails and making phone calls to potential sponsors. As with many sales processes, your goal here will be to contact as many potential sponsors as you can, in order to create a pipeline of potential donors.


Social Media – We’ve found that social media can be a very powerful tool to start conversations with potential companies and sponsors. Social channels that have worked best for us include:


  • Facebook – Surprisingly, the Facebook Messenger tool has proven to be one of the most successful outreach channels we’ve used. To use Facebook Messenger, first search for the companies you’d like to connect with. On their Facebook Business page, they should have a messenger functionality that you can use to contact them. Here, we’ve seen response rates around 90%!


  • LinkedIn – Our favorite method here is to have you and your committee comb through your LinkedIn contacts, seeing where your friends and contacts work, and asking them for potential connections to their employers for sponsorship opportunities.


  • Twitter – We’ve also found success in using Twitter to open doors with potential sponsors. Tweeting directly at companies can result in a quick response from them, offering an email address for the right department or employee to contact.


Friends and Family – While the above channels may be the most time-consuming and can be responsible for a large volume of sponsors, your most effective prospecting, and potentially your largest opportunities, will come from leveraging your network of friends and family.


Your friends and family are people who already trust you and will be able to more easily relate to the cause you’re supporting. Furthermore, they should be more than willing to connect you with any contacts they may know who might be interested in participating as a sponsor for your fundraising event. Ask your friends and family to make these connections for you, and try to set up phone calls or in-person meetings with these potential sponsors.


  1. Creating a Prospecting & Outreach Plan


Once you have identified potential channels for communication with sponsors, we suggest creating a prospecting and outreach plan. To create an effective plan, follow these tips:


  1. Set a goal for both yourself and your committee, for how many outreaches each person will make each week. An outreach consists of an email, conversation, meeting, or phone call with a new potential sponsor.


  1. Have your team track the conversations they are having and the companies that they are communicating with.


  1. Meet regularly with your committee in order to discuss the status of potential sponsorships, and to talk about any new tips or strategies your team has uncovered throughout the process.


  1. Don’t be worried about having multiple people contacting the same company from different angles! We’ve found this approach to be effective in convincing your target companies to participate in sponsorship for your event.


  1. Create competitions for your team as a means of motivation, and provide consistent updates on which members of your committee have closed sponsorship deals.


  1. Process and Example Messages


To help you and your team tackle the process of closing sponsors for your event, we’ve put together some real examples of messages that we have used ourselves!


To begin, our team will typically send an introductory email or Facebook Messenger post to a potential sponsor. These messages may look something like this:




















Here, be sure to note a few key elements of the messages used:


  • Quick description of the event
  • Mention of any eye-catching stats (“1,000+ young professionals and millennials in attendance”)
  • Request for a follow-up call or meeting


After your first contact, you’ve hopefully received a response from the person you’ve contacted, and can continue your discussion by setting up a phone call or in-person meeting.
What you will probably find, however, is that you do not receive many responses on your first outreach. If this is the case, we suggest sending another email / message / call a few days to a week later, quickly touching base with an email similar to the screenshot below:








With the follow-up messages, you’ll notice that they do not contain as much information as the first message. Another tactic here is to add in some information on any other sponsors you have secured already, as this will signal to new potential sponsors that your event is an important one to take part in!


As you (and your committee) continue reaching out to potential sponsors, it is important to stick to some sort of process. One of our favorite ways to keep track of those you have contacted is by creating a simple spreadsheet, with the following columns:


  • Company Contacted
  • Contact Information
  • Date Contacted
  • Result


Using a document like this will allow you to check in on those you have contacted each day, allowing you to plan your follow-up messages or phone calls.


  1. Tips and Tricks


Over the years, we have learned a few tips and tricks that should help as your team begins soliciting sponsors for your next fundraising event. Feel free to share these with your committee!


  1. Appeal to your target sponsors – Prior to contacting a potential sponsor, do a bit of research. Is the company interested in reaching millennials? If so, tell them that your attendance will consist of many people in that age range (as long as that is true).


Additionally, try to frame their participation in your event as a marketing opportunity. To do so, you can provide stats on the impressions that your event will generate (both in person and online).


  1. Mention Your Other Sponsors – Once you begin securing sponsors, include a quick mention of them in your outreach emails to new sponsors. This will be a great tactic in convincing new sponsors to join, as they will see that other companies value a sponsorship opportunity at your event.


  1. Reach Out Often / Mix It Up – When contacting potential sponsors, multiple outreach attempts will be necessary. We rarely see high response rates from the first outreach attempt to potential sponsors. It is not until the 3rd or 4th attempt that you will get higher response rates. Additionally, mix up the channels that you are using to contact potential sponsors (see the recommended channels above).


  1. Start Local – Local companies are a great place to start. Any local businesses will already feel more connected to your cause, and will be more likely to support you.


  1. Target Fast-Growing Companies – Fast-growing companies are also a great target for sponsorship. These companies are always looking to get their name in front of more people in order to grow their brand equity. Furthermore, many of these companies will be looking to rapidly hire new talent – talent that may even be present at your event! We’ve frequently described our event as an opportunity for sponsor companies to meet their next potential hire.


  1. Don’t Give Up! – Did you receive a hard no from a potential sponsor? Don’t give up there! Instead, ask them what you can do to be considered for next year’s event. And if it makes sense, ask if the business would be able to provide a silent auction or raffle item in lieu of a sponsorship.


Acknowledgement and Follow Up


The final part of our guide is all about thanking your sponsors. Donating funds to your fundraising event is extremely generous, so don’t forget to acknowledge your sponsors adequately.
Of course, the first thing you should do is make sure each of your sponsors receives the recognition they deserve based on their tier / contribution level. As discussed before, this could be anything from logo placements on your website to signage at your fundraising event.


Another great way to give some added attention to your sponsors is to make a quick announcement at your event. Here, you will spend most of your time thanking your attendees and talking about your cause, but also try to sneak in a quick thank you to your sponsors.
Finally, when your event has ended, always be sure to follow up with your sponsors. Handwritten thank yous are always a great way to add a personal touch to your appreciation. You can also provide periodic updates to your sponsors about the progress of your cause or organization throughout the year. This will help keep your fundraiser top of mind with your prior sponsors so that they will turn into repeat supporters!



After reading this guide, we hope that you feel much more prepared to grow your fundraiser by making sponsorship a central part of your next event. Feel free to share this guide with your fellow fundraisers, and good luck with your next fundraiser!



ZH_HeadshotZach Hagopian is the co-founder and COO of Accelevents, a mobile fundraising platform that enhances silent auctions and raffles through online and text-message bidding.  An active member in the Boston fundraising scene, Zach focuses on improving traditional fundraising methods and increasing fundraiser proceeds.



Twitter: https://twitter.com/AccelEvents

The final quarter of the year is here and it’s the BEST time for fundraising!

There’s finally a nip in the air and people are thinking about the upcoming holidays, which always leads to thinking about giving back.

In other words, they’re starting to think about who they’ll give to before the year ends.

If you’ve done a good job staying on their radar, they’re thinking about you.

If you haven’t, well, you still have time to build up the ‘know, like, and trust’ factor and motivate folks to support your good cause.


Year-End Fundraising

There’s SO much to do.  So, where do you start?

Here are 13 tips that will set you up for big fundraising success at the end of the year:

1. Lay out a plan. year-end fundraisingWhat do you want to accomplish? How much money do you need to raise?  This is no time to be reactive.  Lay out a proactive plan that includes all the fundraising activities you want to accomplish before December 31. No one raises big money in reactive mode. And a plan will make it easier to get volunteers and your Board involved. (If you were at the Inspired Fundraising Retreat, there’s a 3-page Year-End Fundraising Checklist in your workbook.)

2. Use consistent messaging.Think about what you need to say to warm your donors’ hearts, and use the same language over and over through your newsletters, social media, and everywhere you interact with donors and prospects.  Consistent messaging will stick in people’s minds and help them remember your good cause. Your core message can be simple like “let’s make hunger history” or “every life matters.” Just figure it out, make it donor-focused, and use it repeatedly across the next three months.

3. Get your website ready for visitors.Make sure your website is updated and ready when people visit. Most people will check you out online before they make a gift. There’s nothing worse than a donor or prospect visiting your website and finding information about an “upcoming event” that happened in 2009. Also make sure that your core message is front and center on the website – it helps tie things together in the donor’s mind. Be sure your “Donate Now” button works and that there’s a warm, sincere Thank You note ready to be automatically delivered when someone gives online.

4. Stock up on photos and stories of lives you’re changing.You should always be on the lookout for stories from the front lines that you can use to inspire your donors. Photos are even better. A few hours of gathering stories and details can reap big rewards and bring you lots of new material for your communications. Be sure to get releases for both and protect the privacy of your subjects as needed (you may need to strip out names or identifying details). Then share these stories liberally with your donors and prospects. People love stories, especially when there’s a happy ending!

5. Look for touch-points for your best donors.Make sure that your best donors get multiple warm touches during Fundraising Season. Thank-you phone calls, Holiday cards with no Ask, or invitations to stewardship events like an Open House can make a donor feel valued. These efforts are particularly important because you aren’t asking for money. Think about it: if you show up with your hand out every time you’re in their mailbox or inbox, they’re going to get mighty tired of hearing from you. These warm touches will make sure that doesn’t happen.

6. Optimize your newsletters.Make sure your newsletters between now and year-end have powerful, donor-based messaging, great photos, and help the donor feel good about supporting you. This is your time to shine the spotlight on the good work your organization does. Remember – it’s about them, not you, so share the stories and details your donors want to know.

7. Expand your speaking schedule.year-end fundraisingReach out to the civic clubs in town and see if you can get on their program schedule. Public speaking is one of the best ways to spread the word about your cause and get in front of ideal donor prospects. Check with your local library or Chamber of Commerce to see if they have a list of area clubs. Then tune up your presentation to make sure it starts by highlighting the need, shows how your nonprofit is poised to meet the need, and tells the story of a life that’s been changed by your organization. Finish with a clear call to action so you can walk away with new contacts, donors, volunteers, supporters, and maybe even more speaking gigs.

8. Pitch a story to your local news media.Getting on television or in the newspaper is still a great way to let lots of people know what your nonprofit is doing. It also helps build credibility for your organization, and can help you recruit new volunteers or supporters. The key is to pitch an interesting story that media folks will be interested in. The easier you make it for the media to use or run your story, the higher the chance you’ll get the kind of placement you want.

9. Let your Board members know how they can help.Share your plan with your Board members and invite them to choose where they’d like to help. Be prepared to have individual conversations with them – asking them as a group results in nearly no one raising their hand to help (but you already know that, don’t you?). When you have several very clear, well-defined activities for them to choose from, your chances of greater participation go up. After all, we all like knowing exactly what we’re saying ‘yes’ to and what’s expected of us.

10. Share a great video online.If you don’t have a powerful video of your nonprofit in action, get one created and share it on Facebook, YouTube, and your website in mid December. People are in the mood to feel good about organizations doing good work. Plus, it’s a great way to showcase your nonprofit’s activities.

11. Send a powerful appeal. It won’t do you any good to do all these other things if you’re not actually ASKING for a gift. And you need to do it a couple of times during Fundraising Season. Be sure to stay focused on the donor and tell them a story that inspires them and moves them to give. Ask for a specific amount and share exactly how that donation will change someone’s life. Then give clear instructions on how the donor should give – “return your gift in the envelope provided” or “click here to give online.”

12. Keep the beat on social media. year-end fundraisingBe prepared to show up consistently on Facebook and Instagram during Fundraising Season. Your social media posts may not be the reason people give, but they certainly help remind donors and prospects that you’re there and that you’re doing good work. Post several times a day (you can use a tool like Buffer to schedule these), and vary the content. In other words, don’t just ask, ask, ask. Share things your donor is interested in – success stories, links to related articles, memes, funny things… get creative with it! The key is to plan it out so you don’t miss a beat.

13.  Pour on the sizzle! You can easily add the WOW factor for your donors by getting a little creative. Host a Thank-A-Thon where donors get a thank-you call from a volunteer or Board member. Send your best donors a personalized Thank You video from the front lines of your organization. There are dozens more ideas out there – the point is to surprise and delight them. The extra time it takes to add the sizzle can result in bigger gifts or additional gifts this holiday season.